Salman Rushdie STABBED on New York stage moments before scheduled speech | World | News

Salman Rushdie has had a sentence of death hanging over him since St Valentine’s Day, 1989, writes John Twomey. Amid a storm of outrage in the Muslim world over his book The Satanic Verses, Ayatollah Khomeini issued a global fatwa ordering Rushdie’s execution.

Iran’s supreme leader condemned the author for the crime of blasphemy against Islam through his “irreverent” depiction of the Prophet Mohammed his book. A bounty was offered for his death, which has risen to £2.7million.

The fatwa prompted Britain to break off diplomatic relations with Iran – and give round-the-clock police protection to the author at taxpayers’ expense.

A legal ruling considered binding by hardliners, the fatwa sparked violence around the world with protesters dying during rioting. People associated with the publication of The Satanic Verses were murdered or seriously wounded. Bookstores were firebombed.

In August 1989, would-be assassin Mustafa Mahmoud Mazeh was killed when his bomb detonated prematurely in a hotel in Paddington, west London. Mazeh, 21, is now revered as the “first martyr” to die on a mission to kill “the apostate”.

Rushdie was unrepentant. Asked about the threat of assassination, he replied: “Frankly, I wish I had written a more critical book. I’m very sad that it should have happened. It’s not true that this book is a blasphemy against Islam.

“I doubt very much that Khomeini or anyone else in Iran has read the book or more than selected extracts out of context.” He added: “A religion whose leaders behave in this way could probably use a little criticism.”

Britain restored diplomatic relations with Iran in 1998; the country’s leaders stated they would not support missions to kill the author – but made it clear they would not hinder them either.

Although Rushdie has relaxed security measures since the early days of the fatwa, hardliners remind him the threat has not gone away. Every year on St Valentine’s Day, Iran sends him a card to drive the point home. “My unfunny Valentine,” he calls it.

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